SAN DIEGO (CN) – A San Diego Superior Court judge was unsympathetic Friday when he handed down the longest possible sentence to the last man facing punishment for the downtown rape of an unconscious woman who did her own sleuthing to bring her rapists to justice.
Judge Jeffrey Fraser said Jason Berlin, 28, lacked remorse and lied under oath before sentencing the man to eight years in prison for the rape of an intoxicated person. Berlin was the third and final defendant sentenced in the October 2013 rape of an unconscious woman in a downtown San Diego apartment.
The victim, identified as Jane Doe, did not speak to reporters following the hearing Friday but read a lengthy, expletive-filled statement to the court about her rape and the discovery of a detailed blog post in which Berlin wrote about raping her. The blog was posted to a website called Efficient Pickup, a now-defunct site dedicated to teaching men how to sleep with as many women as possible.
Berlin was 23 at the time he raped Doe, and was “studying” under master pick-up artists Alexander Smith, 27, and Jonas Dick, 28, who were identified as teachers. Smith and Dick were convicted of rape charges last year and each was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Fraser rejected a six-year sentence recommended by Deputy District Attorney Lisa Fox, who said Berlin “shed light on the pick-up artist community” for jurors when he agreed to testify as a witness in the criminal trial against Smith.
Berlin’s attorney Vikas Bajaj had requested probation.
For the third time, Doe read a statement to the court about how being raped has affected her life. She looked directly at Berlin, who remained stoic while she addressed him.
Doe said it was obvious Berlin “idolized” Smith and Dick when she read direct quotes from Berlin’s blog post. All three men frequently slept with the same women on the same night, according to blog posts read by Doe.
“It’s indescribable to read about your own rape in journal format,” Doe said.
“When I stumbled upon the pick-up artist world it consumed me. Women were not mentioned by name, but by number. Virtual high-fives were given by fellow followers. The mission statement said it was about building men’s confidence but what you really do is manipulate women.”
Following the rape, Doe said she had STD tests, blood work and bruises so severe she had to use a bruise treatment gel. She recalled having to identify her underwear “in a 3-inch binder of photos of other women’s clothing,” and said her torn dress was encased in glass and shown to jurors during Smith’s trial.
Doe said the media attention the case has garnered has brought with it online debates among those in the pick-up artist community who called her names like “slut.”
Since being raped, Doe said she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and becomes paranoid around strangers. Doe said testifying in the case has been her “mission and strength all these years.”
Fraser commended Doe, telling her the case would not have gone forward had she not found the perpetrators through the Efficient Pickup website.
“The San Diego Police Department dropped the ball,” Fraser said.
“The only reason they made the arrests was you. You put together the package and dropped it off on their desks. You should go and teach cops how to do this.”
Doe responded to that suggestion by saying she was “willing to offer my services.”
Deputy DA Fox told Fraser she was “troubled” that three years after he raped Doe, Berlin “did not comprehend the gravity of what he did,” adding, “He did not express remorse and minimized the intent and purpose of this sophisticated group of individuals. He knew better. This was not a one night thing – it went on for a long period of time. He testified he knew as soon as she came in the apartment she was drunk.”
Berlin rented the $2,000-a-month apartment in downtown San Diego’s Gaslamp District so he, Smith and Dick could bring back women from bars on the weekend for sex, Fox said.
“He testified there’s no such real thing as resistance, that women act like they resist but still want to have sex,” Fox said.
“This mentality is disturbing and it’s dangerous. The message needs to be sent that this stops here. No means no. They cannot teach people how to prey on other people.”
Berlin’s attorney Bajaj said since being arrested his client has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a milder autism-spectrum disorder he said makes Berlin “socially awkward” and unable to read social cues such as body language and facial expressions. He said Berlin paid for the Efficient Pickup “boot camps” by Smith and Dick because he wanted to “fit in.”
“His history is one of desire and need to fit in, not one of criminality,” Bajaj said.
Fraser interjected when Bajaj described Berlin as a student just following the example of his “teachers” Smith and Dick.
“He had hooked up with approximately 30 women, so how is he not a sexual predator?” Fraser asked.
“He is a student; his mind is a sponge. He was having the time of his life but was taught wrong,” Bajaj said.
Berlin contacted Fox three weeks ago hoping to meet with Doe in person and apologize, Bajaj said, but Doe rejected the meeting request.
Berlin directly addressed Doe and the court and apologized for his involvement, saying he was “embarrassed” but did not directly take responsibility for raping Doe.
“This happened at a time when I was questioning my life and was very confused,” Berlin said.
“I was a workaholic and my life felt empty. I paid for what I believed was a mentorship. What they [Smith and Dick] did was disgusting and affected many people, mainly the victim and myself,” Berlin said.
Berlin’s mother and other family members were present during his sentencing. Lisa Berlin told Fraser the hearing wasn’t about her, as Berlin’s mother, or even her son, but was about the victim, who she tearfully apologized to multiple times.
“I’m a woman and I do not like anything I heard, and it was beyond comprehension to hear it,” Lisa Berlin said.
“I hope you can continue to heal and speak for others who’ve experienced this and I hope you can have a loving relationship.”
Berlin’s mother said she “strongly believed” her son was different than the other two defendants in the case.
“Jason’s agenda was not about sex. He was trying to connect with someone outside of work. It was the wrong way, wrong decision, wrong path and that is why he’s here today,” she said.
When Fraser handed down the sentence he said it was “simple” to determine why he would not sentence Berlin to probation.
“There’s a simple factor why this is not a probation case: the defendant forced himself on an intoxicated person,” Fraser said. “He pled because he wanted to get the best sentence possible, to save himself.”
Fraser said he was “stunned” by Berlin’s witness testimony during Smith’s trial.
“I thought he was going to admit a crime, but his testimony was all consent and that didn’t happen,” Fraser said.
“They both raped her and both laughed about it and blogged about it afterwards. This is for a woman he does not know. There was a high, high degree of callousness – he made the victim into a sex object. If he had told the truth, we would be looking at a very different sentence.”